not that we need another review of the brunch at the terrace, but as these things change often, i thought i'd add my 2 cents...
my father loves the phoenician, and we've been to mary elaines a number of times, and while i was never disappointed, i always felt i could simply never eat enough to really justify the price, and that while there were some standouts on the menu, quite a bit was very pedestrian and "filler".
but it's dad's birthday, and my parents invited me, so off we went. i called ahead to place the meal on my credit card, which i'd have thought would be very simple for a place as cultured at the phoenician, but i have to report it took 3 phone calls and they still weren't able to get it done. the first, i was told it was so busy on sundays that i should just sneak away and pay the tab (i thought this was unlikely to work out and i'd rather it just be taken care of ahead of time), the second time i was told someone would call me back, and then when someone did, they took all my information,etc and said it would be handled. despite this, as i walked in, i asked if it was taken care of, and the hostess said she'd check and later swung by the table to nod yes to me. despite that, later in the meal while i was alone at the table, the manager came by and said they must have taken the number down wrong. i quickly gave him my card, and then as i saw him about to approach my table later, excused myself and diverted him. frankly, this all seemed a bit much to simply take care of the bill, particularly for an outfit like this one. made me regret telling them ahead of time to add %20 as the tip.
that said, the brunch itself was simply magnificent. i keep saying that brunches like this ought to be a 2day pass, because you really can't try everything unless you are a competitive eater. that said, i give the phoenician props for trying to make it easier. nary a chafing dish or a platter of heaped anything could be found- almost everything was plated in small "tastes", from a dazzling display of colorful soups in shot glasses to amuse bouche-list spoons.... even cream cheese came in its own demitasse cup, and most things on their own tiny little plates.
the brunch itself was spread out over a fairly large area- a grill and bloody mary bar took the patio, and inside there was a panini station, carving station, soups, salads and pasta, while another room held the seafood, there was an entire room for desserts, and a whole landing area with breakfast items.
it goes without saying that the service itself was incredibly attentive and champagne and coffee appeared without anyone saying a word. dishes were cleared and napkins and silverware were placed automatically. my father gleefully had about 3 gallons of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice proclaiming it to be the most fabulous thing ever.
onto the food: we had a really hard time parting with the seafood room. there is a dazzling display of sushi, and unlike other locations where the sushi would be mostly rice and crappy sushi at that, this looked to be really outstanding- i skipped most of it since it seemed to a waste to expend stomach space on rice, but i did notice that the crab sushi was actual crab, a nice touch. there was a really lovely roll we all noted of fish, no rice, wrapped in cucumber, and there was a liberal amount of sashimi for the taking- yellowtail, tuna and salmon. We all partook liberally and it was actually surprisingly good. Also surprisingly good were the oysters, and we're a pretty picky bunch. freshly shucked, i will note there was always an abundance, and they were slurpalicious. there was also a great amt of shrimp and crab claws (pre cracked, even, which is notable for a buffet), and a lovely selection of sauces. lemons were individually wrapped... nice touch. there was a great selection of smoked fish and accoutrements.. but most people were grabbing gluttonous spoonfuls of various caviar (and i did not miss out, either), there was a nice selection.
In the main room, there was a great display of soups, and we tried the cucumber mint (eh), the green pea and cilantro (i hear was fab, i hate peas) and the gapacho, which was awesome. There was also a rhubarb, pear, and a few other options. There was also a small salad bar which to my amazement people were eating from.... in a corner was an array of various cold meats including prosciutto, roast beef, pates, etc, but a lack of things to put them on or eat them with. the pate, a goose liver and pork, was really quite good, but we commented it needed a mate. no one bothered with the paninis, but they sure looked cute in the corner. We tried both the leg of lamb and the prime rib, and both were excellent- kept very juicy and full of flavor, despite being at the carving station. Of particular note in this room was the pasta station- all the pasta is made in house. i wouldn't normally bother, but howard seftel made note of it in his review, so i tried the lobster and shrimp ravioli, and it did not disappoint- absolute perfection! they also had a risotto and a few other pastas, but we ran out of room before we ever had a chance at them.
the breakfast station, though very well designed, didn't offer much that tempted me away from the rest- eggs benedict, sausage the size of small children's arms, belgian waffles that looked great, and bagels and lox (all on their own tiny plates), pastry, and yogurt, cereals, etc in martini glasses. a standard omelette bar was there as well.
outside, the bloody mary bar was really a dream for someone like myself, and unlike the do-it-yourself places, the bartender really made a great drink... we tried a simple citron mary and a spicy mary and had a ball trying to decide on garnishes from heart of palm to pickled carrot... and then there were the various sea salts :) the grill was serving up some veggies, a nice piece of really rare beef and some salmon. Both were very good, but in comparison, there were better offerings.
desserts really are a disappointment usually at places like this- although there are tons of offerings, none of them are every really great... so i saved the vast cheese table for last in case i didn't see anything in the dessert room. most of the choices were uninspired.. the st andre can be found at any grocery store, and most of the cheese weren't labeled past "goat cheese" and "brie", but the stilton was really very nice. I grabbed a few chocolate strawberries and a creme brulee and headed back to the table. The creme brulee was on par for a buffet- i passed by a LOT of chocolate, from tarts to truffles and an ice cream bar, as well as a crepe station, so there were certainly plenty of offerings. My only note is that most of it was placed around a rather crudely done chocolate coral-scape that was slightly unappetizing...
the bill came to 250 with tip for three of us, and none of us were disappointed (particularly my dad when he discovered i picked up the tab), plus i figure my dad drank about 60$ in grapefruit juice and another 100$ in oysters, easy.... but really, i figure you're not paying for just the food at a place like this- you're really paying for a relaxing afternoon full of discovery and good service, and we got both.
and now, excuse me while i go nap it off for the next three years.